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Ireland's Nathan White happy he answered Joe Schmidt's call in 2011

The 34-year-old prop takes great pride in representing Connacht at the World Cup.

NATHAN WHITE’S SONG after his first Ireland cap went down a treat with his teammates.

Nathan White White before his Ireland debut against Scotland during the summer. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Every new international has to run the gauntlet of baring their vocal chords for the likes of Paul O’Connell, Jamie Heaslip and the rest of the squad to assess, and White passed with flying colours.

‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ by The Drifters was the 34-year-old’s choice. In being a little old-school – “a good oldie,” says White with a smile – the tune perhaps sums up the Ireland tighthead.

It’s not your standard rugby song choice, but then White’s journey to this World Cup has been anything but run-of-the-mill.

The New Zealand native first arrived in Ireland in 2011, joining Leinster on a one-year contract from Waikato.

The presence of fellow Kiwi Joe Schmidt as the province’s head coach at the time was important in convincing White to make the long move, although he points out that there was no pre-existing relationship at the time.

Not at all, no,” says White. “I remember before I left New Zealand I spoke to Joe… well he spoke to me probably for half an hour. I didn’t really get a word in!

“I listened to him and he said, ‘We’ll give you a chance if you want to come. It’s up to you, but we’ll give you a chance.’ That was basically it really.”

White took a punt, ended up playing for Leinster 24 times in his single season with the eastern province and attracted the attention of Connacht.

White underlines that it was never his intention to shift his life to Ireland in order to play international rugby. Instead, the opportunity of a three-year deal in Connacht had been far too good to turn down.

IrelandÕs Nathan White White won his third cap against England in London.

“Not at all, I had a one-year contract,” says White of any initial thoughts of playing for Ireland.

“I was probably looking at that one year and then it was basically ‘what are we going to do after that?’ Connacht came along and we had enjoyed our time in Dublin, and thought it would be nice to stay in Ireland. The kids really enjoy it here.”

White has been an absolutely pillar for Connacht since his switch there in 2012, impressing with his set-piece abilities at tighthead, as well as his skill level and mobility around the pitch.


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He earned another new contract with the westerners early this year, extending his stay until the summer of 2017 at least, and there is a genuine sense of pride for White in now getting the opportunity to represent Connacht at a World Cup.

Rugby has really grown in the west,” says White. “I was down at the kids’ rugby on the weekend and you see the U7s and the U10s, those age groups, and how much it’s grown in the last few years.

“Pat Lam has been doing a great job getting involved in the community out there and Connacht holds a special place in my heart. To spend a fair bit of time over there and then obviously go and do them proud, I want to represent Ireland well.”

Has he stolen Robbie Henshaw’s status as the star of the show in Connacht yet?

“Robbie’s star is still burning bright over there,” says White with a laugh,” so I’m just the quiet old fella out the back really.”

White should have had his Ireland debut as early as November of 2014, having qualified on residency, but had to wait until this summer against Scotland on account of his injury troubles last season, when he was ruled out of those November Tests and the Six Nations.

His official qualification was the first time White even thought about potentially being involved in a World Cup.

Nathan White after the game White is hungry for more caps. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I think maybe the start of last season when I qualified to play for Ireland, it sort of came into the mind and I thought, ‘There’s something to really aim for’. I looked to keep the standards up, keep the drive up and keep the performances up.”

White achieved that and his family and friends back in Waikato and his hometown of Hawera will now have the chance to watch the 34-year-old prop take part in the global tournament.

Their pride will be extreme, but White jokes that they won’t exactly be cheering for Ireland.

I’ve had a few messages from mates giving me plenty of stick! They wish you well, but at the end of the day they’re not supporting Ireland.”

It’s a modest and humorous reply from White again, but there’s no doubting the quality of the hard work he’s put in to earn his shot on this stage. Nor is there any concern over the Connacht man’s hunger to push things on to the next level.

Canada are in White’s sights.

“For myself personally, if I get on the field it will be my fourth cap. So it’s pretty exciting and I don’t take anything for granted whatsoever. It’s about going out there and doing your job, doing it well.”

After drifting from New Zealand to earn his place in the the Ireland squad, White might not get a Saturday night at the movies, but he is sure to get a Saturday afternoon at the Millennium Stadium.

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Murray Kinsella

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